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Michael Shermer is the founding editor of Skeptic Magazine and holds a Ph.D in history of science.This book take a deep, deep look at the fundamental, scientific reasons why we, as humans, tend to believe How did these ideas develop in our history How are they beneficial or detrimental to us Do we even realize the true reason for certain things that we do Let me say that Shermer is not by any accounts a militant atheist He is often kind and generous and examines God, religion, and myth not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn, but to understand Approach this book with an open mind and you will be rewarded. I found this book rather boring, maybe because I don t need to be convinced by the arguments he makes I had already read some excellent books on the subject by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins Even as a child, I was called negative and critical perhaps because I saw through people s self delusions However as a speaker, Dr Shermer is excellent funny, relevant, concise I saw him give a talk at a university a couple of months ago The event was listed in a Meetup group of which I am a member, and prior to it, another member revealed himself in a comment to the Meetup event page to be a nine eleven truther The Meetup group is for atheists, who are usually skeptics as well Some members of the group disputed the truther, and their posts weren t all nice I feel partly responsible for starting the argument I misunderstood the truther s post to say he thought SHERMER is a conspiracy theorist After four readings of his poorly written post, in which he had linked to the Rethink 9 11 website, I realized that HE was the conspiracy theorist, but by then I had opened a can of worms.I kept thinking about what I would LIKE to post, but will not, because even though the truther left that Meetup group, he is still a member of another atheist Meetup group I am in and he would see it So I will post my draft messages here instead.WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO THE MEETUP GROUP AND OR THE TRUTHERDear ACSJ I apologize for using the term crank in my message This forum was the last place I expected to encounter a conspiracy theorist, so forgive me for making what could be conceived as a personal attack Just in case there are other people in the meetup group that I may have offended, I want to apologize to the alien abductees, JFK conspiracy theorists, Sasquatch believers, crop circlers, moon landing hoaxers, tooth fairyists, etc Let me know if I ve missed anyone That s a joke just check RationalWiki for a list of weird beliefs Dear Terry, my deepest apologies for calling you a crank Believing that the events on September 11, 2001 were engineered by the Bush administration is totally understandable It s just as believable as an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent god who created the universe, yet cares about each of us personally and listens to our prayers May I suggest that while you are rejecting one indefensible belief yet harboring another one that you are f ng crazy There are meetup groups for people such as you, but I think a doctor could help you.Dear Brian, I understand that part of ACSJ s mission is diplomacy toward, if not tolerance of, those with extreme religious viewpoints, perhaps in the hope that they can be won to the rational side Does this diplomacy extend, however, to people who hold other indefensible and extreme beliefs as well, such as conspiracy theories Religions have been enjoying special status and sanctity for centuries, but what reason do we have for treating the beliefs of cranks with respect Yes, we should respect the person, but I see no reason to tolerate someone who sows seeds of discord by posting a message to the group to further his own personal beliefs that have nothing to do with atheism except I think most atheists are by nature skeptics as well why would one reject one set of delusions while clinging to another I feel like ACSJ is an island of sanity in an insane world, and it just got violated by this Terry.Skeptics Society video You Can t Handle the Truther Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, and director of the Skeptics society, has produced a work attempting to synthesize several academic fields including anthropology, sociology, and biology to answer the question as to why humans hold to religious beliefs Divided into two parts the book discusses I God and Belief, and II Religion and Science.Part I begins with a chapter called Do You Believe in God Shermer starts with his own story of conversion to the Christian faith and his subsequent loss of faith He uses experience and scientific analysis to put forward the difficulty the question of God poses He concludes by saying, God s existence or nonexistence cannot possibly be understood in human terms What cannot be understood cannot be proved What is unprovable is insoluble 15 What he means is that God is essentially irrelevant, because he cannot be known in any modernist scientific sense However, he will later argue that the question of God is important from at least a sociological and anthropological standpoint Is God Dead discusses whether philosophers like Nietzsche were correct in their pronouncement of the death of God Shermer states that in our modern scientific age, we have begun to answer life s ultimate questions, which before now were left only to religion In spite of this scientific trend God is still alive and well in the minds of most people, because he has been the answer to life s ultimate questions for so long God is not dead, practically speaking, because he represents these ultimate concepts that have been with us for as long as we have existed 30 The Belief Engine, the third chapter of the book discusses several evolutionary hypotheses attempting to explain how we come to believe things Shermer states that because we are pattern seeking animals, always trying to find connections between events and experiences even where there might not be one, we have developed what he calls a belief engine The belief engine is used to explain how various evolutionary factors came together in the human mind to ascribe meaning to events and experiences, to put meaning to the patterns He then develops several possible histories of how this engine developed He concludes by saying that it is likely that the purpose of this engine is to deal with questions involving the unknown, pain and most specifically to find comfort in death the problem for which we have no solution Why People Believe in God, the fourth chapter, is essentially a continuation of the previous chapter Shermer gives examples of groups outside of organized religion that hold hope for the future such as, trans humanism and the broader category of humanism He explains that all belief systems, no matter how rational, tend to organize themselves around meta narratives to explain the hope toward which they are working He concludes from this that there must be an inherent part of humans that is wired for belief in something or someone bigger than us He puts for several other possibilities including God as gap filler in the brain, genetic predisposition, temporal lobe seizures, and God as meme theoretical cultural gene Shermer concludes with a general statement admitting that many varied factors play into belief in God, but seeing that many think their personal faith is logical, even though it is assumed to be a crutch for others.The fact that the author devotes one chapter to all the major arguments for God that he is aware of is quite telling He gives a brief overview of arguments such as the cosmological, ontological, and the moral argument and gives quite pithy paragraph length responses to each He then goes on to various scientific arguments and quotes a few noted scientist to disagree with the arguments presented His assumption of the validity of the scientific method and modernist epistemology throughout the chapter is telling One gets the feeling that he does not desire to deal with any of the arguments at length, because in his mind they are simply doomed from the start due to a non naturalistic starting point From these assumptions he declares the disparity between science and religion.The book s second section begins with a chapter entitled, In a Mirror Dimly, then Face to Face This is where Shermer moves from studying the basis for religious belief to attempting to understand the similarities and transcendent ideas all religions share, and their relation to science In this chapter he puts forth three models used to relate religion to science The first is called the conflicting worlds model, where science and religion are at war The second model is called the same worlds model, where science and religion agree when both are understood rightly The third is called the separate worlds model, where science and religion discuss two unrelated spheres of knowledge Stephen J Gould popularized this view through his concept of NOMA non overlapping magisteria Shermer feels that this last model is the best for both science and religion, because it allows them both to answer the specific questions they deal with, without interfering with the other He ends the chapter with a moving story about faith and passion he experienced while at a service of Ebenezer Baptist Church He concludes that this experience shows that religion is useful, and doesn t need to deal with questions of science.Chapter seven, entitled The Storytelling Animal, attempts to explain the development of myths and various religious narratives He quotes neuroscientist Michal Gazzaniga who claims that we are all storytellers, in the sense that we take the facts of our everyday experience and weave them into a narrative, from which we spin doctor our self image 143 Shermer then states that the two primary purposes of religion are to create stories and myths that address our deepest questions, and the production of moral systems to provide social cohesion for the most social of all the social primates 143 He refers back to the concept of humans as pattern seeking animals and argues that storytelling develops from this instinct He then argues that stories generally developed into grander myths that attempt to explain reality He argues that even cosmology and archaeology attempt to answer these ultimate questions, and create narrative forms for them He points to the dragon as a common character in ancient mythologies and how the values of the culture shape the narrative and the dragons place within them 154 He then tries to close the gap between these stories, modern religion, and morality He puts forth several theoretic options, concluding it is somehow related to language and the desire to help someone with the hope that they will return the favor He concludes by saying God is the general framework that allows for religion.The next chapter, God and the Ghost Dance, deals with the development of the idea of messiah, or savior He begins with a story about a time he answered questions on a radio show related to a UFO cult awaiting the destruction of society, and how this relates to the common hope of a messiah among oppressed peoples He relates this UFO narrative to a myth developed among Native Americans in the 1800 s that predicted the coming of judgment on the white man and the restoration of their land He concludes that similar stories throughout history show that history is cyclical and that it is common for oppressed peoples to create messiah myths to create hope for a better future.The second to last chapter, The Fire that Will Cleanse, is a continuation of the previous chapter It deals specifically with the common theme among societal myths of a glorious utopian future achieved either through progressive improvement or apocalyptic judgment of the wicked and vindication of the good He gives examples of different Christian view of the millennium throughout history and their relation to Revelation 20 1 6 He also discusses several cult and pagan myths of a final rescue or judgment He concludes that again the pattern seeking and story telling impulse merge together in the millennium myth to solve the problem of why bad things happen to good people, but these myths give us the hope that in the end good will triumph over evil 212 The final chapter appears as almost a non sequiter when compared to the rest of the book One would expect to read a sort of broad summary and vague philosophical statement about the general helpfulness of myths and religious belief for human society, but that is not what is found Instead, in a chapter entitled Glorious Contingency Shermer gives a summary of a theory of evolution that gives room for human choices to be undetermined, at least in an experiential sense He encourages his audience by saying that it may be nothing but wishful thinking to desire one s place in history to be contingently significant, but since we do not know, why not act as if it does 236 With that he closes by saying that man is now free, when loosed from religion, to experience everything with the freedom his contingent place in the universe has given him 238.This book attempted to cover a lot of ground in a very short space Shermer s writing was clear and concise He was able to use analogies to explain complex ideas and used short stories to explain the significance of his research Even with this in mind, the book seemed kind of cobbled together Certain chapters flowed quite well in terms of hypotheses and research shown, but would then either end abruptly or obscurely He obviously put a lot of effort into researching for this book, but I don t feel he was ever able to adequately answer any of the questions he set out to answer He was able to give statistics and hypotheses for different collections of data, but he seemed unaware that, as Van Til said, there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact It felt as though he believed simply presenting the data, and the saying this is how we might explain this was proving once and for all his interpretation of that information This unstated belief on his part seemed most obvious when he discussed arguments for God, his understanding of the relation of science and religion, and his hypotheses in the chapter The Storytelling Animal His closing chapter, as summarized above, came as quite a surprise If he had wanted readers to agree with his conclusion regarding the freedom inherent in being the product of random chance, he should have been developing it alongside his religious analysis throughout the entire book This was also confusing considering his continual nods to the usefulness of religion While this book had interesting information in parts, I did not find it helpful or persuasive For a similar book in this same vein I would recommend Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennet. This book does a great job at explaining the origins of religion and how it was a necessary by product of evolution After reading this is hard to deny that religion and the concept of God is not explainable through natural processes Then given the choice between an understandable natural phenomena and a mysterious supernatural phenomena, why should anyone choose religion over science unless for comfort Because of this book I changed my religious label to nontheist meaning I don t believe reason can lead to a belief or disbelief in God This is subtly different than atheist depending on how it s defined in that it s not that I completely reject the possibility of God, it s just that I don t believe in God It is also different than agnosticism because that generally has the connotation of being undecided which I am not Another plus of nontheism is that it doesn t yet have the nasty connotation of being amoral like atheism In the end this book just made me wish everyone would analyze their own religious beliefs and labels as thoroughly as Michael Shermer. Shermer illustrates that our belief machine , our mechanism for understanding the world, arose from our need to believe something in that believing true things and disbelieving false things increases our chances of survival Unfortunately, that same mechanism easily picks up and believes false things and disbelieves true things, especially where those mistakes don t cost us too much At the same time, he helpfully illustrates the features of worldwide cults and religions that are shared with Christianity, gently illustrating both the universality of our hopes made manifest in beliefs, and also the truly mundane nature of the Christian tradition Well written and respectful of belief, while still advocating an evidence based reality and mindset Imagination is a powerful tool Over millennia, it helped the human being survive the most calamitous scenarios, such was our will to succeed as a dominant species As a result, gods were concocted Religions were edified Myths were invented, and successfully propagated.The 21st century brought hope Civilization is now able to use its cognitive powers to discover new ways of explaining reality Science seems to be the definitive answer to ignorance But how are people using this privileges In How We Believe , skeptic Michael Shermer promises to explore an entirely different realm of knowledge the study of secular, highly developed societies like the United States of America, and how medieval conceptions of the world continue to spread amidst the population To accomplish this, Shermer shows the reader numerous studies and a considerable amount of statistical data People continue to go to church 90 % of individuals still believe in God With wit and ingenuity, Michael Shermer tries to dissect Humanity, and Its rich history A brilliant attempt to find satisfying answers. I enjoyed the first chapter the most of this book I found chapter 2 and 3 a wee bit drawn out, still good just a little long I m looking forward to seeing what else Michael Shermer has written as I find his perspective on religion interesting The main thing I appreciated in this book is how the author doesn t engage in proving or disproving a supernatural being as that seems insoluble. *Download Book ↠ How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God ☞ A New Edition Covering The Latest Scientific Research On How The Brain Makes Us Believers Or SkepticsRecent Polls Report That Percent Of Americans Believe In God, And Percent Believe That Angels Regularly Visit Earth Why Is This Why, Despite The Rise Of Science, Technology, And Secular Education, Are People Turning To Religion In Greater Numbers Than Ever Before Why Do People Believe In God At All These Provocative Questions Lie At The Heart OfHow We Believe , An Illuminating Study Of God, Faith, And Religion Bestselling Author Michael Shermer Offers Fresh And Often Startling Insights Into Age Old Questions, Including How And Why Humans Put Their Faith In A Higher Power, Even In The Face Of Scientific Skepticism Shermer Has Updated The Book To Explore The Latest Research And Theories Of Psychiatrists, Neuroscientists, Epidemiologists, And Philosophers, As Well As The Role Of Faith In Our Increasingly Diverse Modern WorldWhether Believers Or Nonbelievers, We Are All Driven By The Need To Understand The Universe And Our Place In ItHow We Believeis A Brilliant Scientific Tour Of This Ancient And Mysterious Desire A great book detailing why people believe what they do This book went over several different standpoints on God and religion for example, Agnosticism, Atheism, and obviously Christianity One of my favorite discussions in the book is, in an age of science are religious people becoming scarce or are they on the rise The quick answer would be that people believe in God than they used to, but I would highly suggest that you read the polls and studies done they are very fascinating I really enjoyed the book I just wish certain topics would have been discussed in depth. A wonderful explanation of why the mind makes up things that aren t real.